Portfolio help: Applying for Architecture at a (UK) University, even if you’ve missed the grades.

So a lot of universities for architecture in the UK ask for AAA (A level grades) or similar (which is a bit unfair considering how many other skills you need to be a good architect, but there you go). This can be quite daunting when you are predicted lower, or already have lower, grades. The good thing is, most of these universities will ask for portfolios - you can use your portfolio to show your talent and still get accepted into these universities. I had a lot of help from lots of different people (architects, teachers, family and friends), so I have collected their tips and tricks, along with my own, to help you through this laborious process:


1. Time. Set aside quite a bit of time for your portfolios. Take things steady, and don’t rush. Most of the universities you apply to will have different portfolio criteria, which means creating several different portfolios. If you rush and skip out important parts, the examiners will be able to tell.

2. Quality. Put in work you’re happy with. Show off your strong points. Try not to weaken your portfolio by adding a page you’re not happy with. An examiner would rather see eight good pages, than twelve slighty above average ones. However, don’t worry about a perspective drawing looking slightly wrong or other minute details, the examiner is not going to penalise you for this.

3. Don’t try to be an architect. Leave out house designs, plans etc. You’re going to learn how to become an architect, they don’t want you trying to be one already. What they want to see is your potential.

4. Show variety! This is really important. Different mediums, different subjects, different processes, etc. They want to see a real mixture of what you can do (since whilst studying you will use a massive mixture of different art styles).

5. Good presentation. Personally, I think this is important. Work looks much better when displayed well, and therefore so will you. Use a nice font, and think how to present your images on the page. Have clear titles and captions.

6. Not just school work. Include your own work, done outside of the classroom (unless your artwork is really good and you can get away with it!). I wasn’t happy with the art I had done in school, so almost all of my portfolio contained work I had done in my own time (all around the time I had to submit portfolios). Also something to keep in mind - the work you do now will be better than the work you did a year ago (I wouldn’t recommend using GSCE work).

8. Page order. Not too important but something you will think about. Just think sensibly, make your work flow.

9. Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask people for help, ideas or feedback. Feel free to message me for anything, I’d love to help! Another good thing is to try and find people’s portfolios to look at, and draw inspiration / take tips from them (not copy).

10. Have faith in yourself! Believe you can do it and then you can!!

Extra help on what you might want to include:

What examiners might like to see (based off what architects, teachers, tutors & universities have told me):

  • Life drawing - examiners might like to see one or two pieces, don’t worry about accuracy, it can be an interesting continuous line drawing. I recommend going to a few classes and choosing the best/most interesting.
  • Buildings / Perspective drawings - you will be drawing lots of buildings after all. Don’t flood your portfolio in them, but I would definitely recommend doing at least two, possibly one (again, stick with what you’re good at, it doesn’t need to be a traditional method of drawing).
  • Work experience - if you did some work experience at an architect’s office, and you made something (e.g. made a model, built a chair), put it in! Even if it’s not the best thing you’ve ever created, show your processes.
  • 3D work - To show your process and design thoughts. Doesn’t need to be anything amazing. For example, I used cardboard to create random connecting shapes and experimented with light and shadow, which I captured through photography.
  • Photography - I would definitely include some good and/or interesting photographs, preferably of something architecture related (although not necessary I guess). For example, a series of photographs of a particular building, or a series of something common among several buildings.
  • Your strengths. As I have mentioned before, show off! Show the examiners what you’re best at, how creative you are, what you will bring to the university.

Making portfolios is a long and stressful process, but definitely worth it. Even with good grades, if you’ve got a crap portfolio the examiner might be less inclined to give you an offer. I worked my arse off for my portfolios,  got 4/5 of my offers (the fifth didn’t ask for a portfolio), missed my needed grades by quite a bit but still got accepted into my first choice - hard work pays off!

I really really hope this helps and I wish you all the bestest of luck. Please don’t hesitate to ask further questions, I will also be happy to give out my portfolios if you would like to see them.

Good luck!!

Architecture students and graduates know that it’s not enough to simply do good work - half the challenge is communicating the work you do. The job search portfolio is probably one of our more stressful representational challenges. There’s a balance to strike between personality and professionalism, and you don’t want to wonder whether you didn’t send the message you intended.

In preparation for an upcoming work term I put together my first professional portfolio this summer and learned a few things along the way. I’m by no means an expert, but here are some of the things I’ve been told or complimented on thus far:

1. The cover is your first impression. You can go minimal, use elaborate patterns, or use a photo you’re particularly proud of, just know that it will say something about your style and interests. I chose a photo relevant to my interests in coastal architecture and repurposed materials, with colours I thought worked well together.

2. Resumes can come at the front or the back of your portfolio. In my case I paired it with a table of contents over a graphic which ties to the theme of my cover. The (lack of) colour here introduces the stark black and white scheme which I use throughout my portfolio.

3. When you get to your projects it helps to have a system. I first split my page spread into top and bottom, and then into three columns per page. This gave me some zones to work with. The three labelled above stayed the same on most of my pages while the others vary. Once you have a system you also learn how to break out of it - on some pages large images cross my guides, placing emphasis on them.

4. Think about print. If you ever plan to make physical copies of your portfolio there are a few things you should consider. First, standard sizes make for cheaper copies - mine is formatted for a letter sized page in landscape orientation. Second, printing to the edges of your page (full bleed) requires printing larger and cutting down. This can be costly and time-consuming, but can also be worth it. In my case I wanted to be able to make many copies, so I kept my graphics from the edges of the page (in most cases) and left room at the “spine” for binding.

In a few years I’m sure my portfolio will be very different than what you see here, both in content and style, but for now I’m very happy with it. Good luck!

External image

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Check out my Undergraduate Portfolio.


Portfolio Making - Post (1)

Haven’t been tumblring in a while because of school work (but now I am officially done.) So since all I have been doing during break is starting my arch portfolio,  I did these two pages as a test and they look pretty impressive for a beginner.

For people who want to know, I used Adobe InDesign (it’s a legit program I tell you!). 

Study of Concrete #2

Concrete - combined elements mixed and churned over a period of time until discharged into a decided form. It craves to fill this form, it has always been seeking this form. Hardening, it becomes thick and heavy, stable and possibly permanent. It settles around the rotten wood, beginning its process of solidifying.
           The moisture from the wood effects the concrete - it delays its process, it roughens it’s smooth appearance. It is toxic, conflicting, malicious. It creates an uncomfortable tension to the eye. 

Thought - combined ideas or influences contribute to decision. Thought brews and grows over a period of time until discharged into decision. Decision craves to become action, it has always been seeking to become action. Expressed, it becomes thick and heavy, stable and possibly permanent. It settles around doubt. 
           Doubt effects the action, it roughens its smooth appearance. It is toxic, conflicting, malicious. It creates an uncomfortable tension in the mind.